- Associated Press - Thursday, September 20, 2012

TUCSON, ARIZ. (AP) - Space shuttle Endeavour has flown over Tucson, Ariz., on its trek west to retirement in a Los Angeles museum.

Endeavour, atop a modified jumbo jet, did a partial loop over the city to honor former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, before it continued its journey west.

Hundreds of people gathered on the grass mall at the University of Arizona campus to watch it pass.

The retired shuttle departed Houston earlier Thursday after a one-day stop at the home of NASA’s Mission Control. It took off Wednesday from its old home in Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It continues its journey to Los Angeles International Airport, where it’s scheduled to land Friday.

This is the last flight for a space shuttle.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

The space shuttle Endeavour took off atop a modified transport plane from a Houston airport Thursday, beginning its journey to retirement in California, where it will be put on permanent display in a museum.

Along the way, the shuttle will pass low over several cities and places, including Tucson, Ariz., the home of the last person to command an Endeavour mission, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, and his wife, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The couple recently moved back to Tucson from Houston, where Giffords was recovering from serious injuries she suffered in a 2011 attack in which a gunman killed six people and wounded Giffords and 12 others.

Thursday’s flyover, which Kelly requested, gives NASA a chance to honor Giffords’ legacy as a longtime advocate for American human spaceflight, NASA spokeswoman Lisa Malone told The Associated Press in an email. She said no additional costs would be incurred by honoring Kelly’s request.

Hundreds of people gathered Wednesday to watch the shuttle land in Houston for an overnight stay, an exciting but bittersweet moment for many residents who felt spurned that Space City wasn’t chosen as the final home for one of the five retired shuttles.

“I think that it’s the worst thing that they can do, rotten all the way,” said 84-year-old Mary Weiss, clinging to her walker just before Endeavour landed after flying low over Gulf Coast towns, New Orleans and then downtown Houston and its airports.

Space City, partly made famous by Tom Hanks when he uttered the line “Houston, we have a problem” in the movie “Apollo 13,” has long tied its fortune to a mix of oil and NASA. Astronauts train in the humid, mosquito-ridden city, and many call it home years after they retire. The Johnson Space Center and an adjacent museum hug Galveston Bay.

Houston’s bid for a shuttle was rejected after the White House retired the fleet last summer to spend more time and money on reaching destinations, such as Mars and asteroids. Instead, Houston got a replica that used to be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center.

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